Switzerland has supported the political, economic and social transition in Eastern Europe and in countries of the former Soviet Union (transition cooperation) since the start of the 1990s. The 2006 Federal Act on Cooperation with the States of Eastern Europe provides the legal framework for this. It also serves as the legal basis for Switzerland's contribution to reducing economic and social disparities in the enlarged European Union (EU). The current act remains in force until 31 May 2017. In order to continue cooperation with the states of Eastern Europe, the Federal Council proposed in the consultation to extend the act until 2024.
The transition to democratic, pluralistic states and to free and social market economies are among Switzerland's overriding objectives and interests in its cooperation with the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. This transition cooperation is intended to help strengthen stability and peace in these countries while reducing social disparities, creating positive development prospects and improving the environment for trade and investments. As the consultation has made clear, continuing the legal basis for transition cooperation has the support of a very large majority. Against this background the Federal Council has mandated the FDFA together with the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) to renew the Eastern Europe Cooperation Act.
Dispatch to be submitted by the end of February 2016 at the latest
The new Eastern Europe Cooperation Act should be submitted to the Federal Council by the end of February 2016 together with the Dispatch on International Cooperation 2017-2020 and the framework credit for the financing of transition cooperation. This will make it possible for parliament to debate on the financial contribution and the future legal basis for transition cooperation at the same time in 2016. On the basis of the result of the consultation it is still the intention of the Federal Council to make transition cooperation subject to the Federal Act on International Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid as of 2025.
In the consultation there were several calls to create a separate legal basis for eventual renewal of Switzerland's contribution to reducing economic and social disparities in the enlarged European Union (enlargement contribution). The Federal Council will decide on this at the latest at the end of February 2016, at the time of the submission of the Dispatch on the Eastern Europe Cooperation Act.
Eventual renewal of the legal basis does not prejudge the question of further financial contributions to the new EU member states. As far as the Federal Council is concerned a decision on the possible renewal of the enlargement contribution should be made in the light of the future development of overall relations between Switzerland and the EU. The course of current negotiations on the consolidation and renewal of the bilateral approach desired by the Federal Council as well as the question of a solution to the issue of the free movement of persons are of crucial importance in this context.
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